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Meet the Prospect: Sauce Gardner

Name: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner

Position: Cornerback

School: Cincinnati

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 200

40-yard dash: 4.41

Bench: Did not bench

Vertical: Did not jump

Broad: Did not jump

3-cone: Did not run

20-yard shuttle: Did not run

View photos of NFL prospect Sauce Gardner.

How he fits: Gardner is the consensus top cornerback in this year's NFL Draft with a terrific blend of size, length and speed. He didn't allow a touchdown in more than 1,000 career coverage snaps in college.

He's terrific at the line of scrimmage when using his long arms to jam receivers, but can also accelerate and run with anyone past the line. He's got terrific ball skills, recording nine interceptions (two for scores) over the last three seasons. He also recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks to go along with three interceptions and seven passes defended this past season for the Bearcats.

The Lions have good depth at cornerback, but there are some question marks still remaining in terms of when they'll have Jeff Okudah (Achilles) and Jerry Jacobs (ACL) back in the fold this summer. Detroit added veteran Mike Hughes to the mix this offseason, and have Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu, AJ Parker and Will Harris all returning, but like we always say with pass rushers, teams can never have too many good cornerbacks on the roster because that position typically suffers more injuries.

The Lions used the No. 3 overall pick on Okudah a couple years ago, but injuries have allowed him to play in just 10 games over his first two seasons.

Gardner would step in and probably be 1B at cornerback opposite Oruwariye, and give the Lions some freedom to be creative in their secondary with personnel groupings.

Key observations: A three-star recruit out of Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, Gardner was the No. 163 cornerback in the 2019 recruiting class and the No. 41 recruit in the state of Michigan.

He has been very durable throughout his college career missing just one game over the last three years (37 games played).

He saw less than three targets on average per game, and didn't allow a reception of 20-plus yards all season. In fact, Gardner allowed just 13 catches for 117 yards all season, which includes a matchup with Alabama in the college playoff semifinal.

What they had to say about him: "Long, lean and linear, Gardner's physical and football growth are on full display when comparing his 2019 tape to 2021. He's highly competitive with a confidence level that will be labeled as cocky by some evaluators. "Sauce" uses length and hand activity to impose his will on the release and stall the route on the tarmac. Staying connected to the route is a priority, which leads to grabbing when he feels it slipping away but that can be corrected by improving his footwork and trusting his technique.

"His movements lack fluidity, but he's urgent and aggravating in man-to-man, which could become a deterrent for NFL quarterbacks scanning to his side of the field if he can avoid a big spike in penalties as he adjusts to NFL officiating. Gardner has the traits and demeanor to become a highly effective CB1 within his first couple of seasons." – Lance Zierlein, NFL analyst

How he stacks up: Gardner is rated the top cornerback and No. 5 overall prospect in the draft by Dane Brugler of The Athletic.

He comes in at No. 9 on Pro Football Focus' list of the Top 150 players in this draft. He's the No. 3 prospect on Daniel Jeremiah's most recent update of his Top 100 in this class, behind only Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and N.C. State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu.

Gardner is the No. 5 overall prospect on Scouts Inc.'s rankings, and he checks in at No. 4 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board.

What he had to say: "You know just me being able to come on the field and change the team," Gardner said at the Combine when asked why he's the best cornerback in this draft.

"My presence. People being able to look up to me even if they're older than me know and my love for the game. You know me being able to just be competitive, you know so I can eliminate the best receiver on the field."

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